Men fall in Big Ten semifinals, eye NCAAs

The women’s season ended in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.

Minnesota sophomore Leandro Toledo plays an opponent from Drake University at the ITA Central Regional Championship on Sunday.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota sophomore Leandro Toledo plays an opponent from Drake University at the ITA Central Regional Championship on Sunday.

Dane Mizutani

The Gophers men’s tennis team lost in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, but head coach Geoff Young said he’s satisfied with the way his team performed during the weekend.

Minnesota defeated Michigan State 4-0 on Friday and then lost 4-3 to Michigan on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio.

“That couldn’t have gone much better against Michigan State, and with Michigan … we knew it was going to come down to the wire,” Young said. “It just didn’t go our way that time.”

The Gophers took the doubles point against the Spartans before sophomores Jack Hamburg and Leandro Toledo and junior Juan Pablo Ramirez won in singles to clinch the match for the team.

Minnesota also won the doubles point against the Wolverines — a team it beat 4-3 earlier this season — but couldn’t hold on. The Wolverines took four of the six singles matches.

“There was obviously some disappointment, but at the same time the guys were satisfied with the way we competed,” Young said.

The Gophers had already clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament because their record is above .500.

Young said he was impressed with his doubles squads during the weekend and said that aspect of the team could be a strength in the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota will have almost two weeks off from competition before the start of the NCAA tournament. The Gophers have played two matches every weekend since late March.

Young said last week that his team is fatigued and that this stretch will serve as a good break.

He said it will be “a balance between staying in shape and getting some rest,” but he said there’s no doubt his squad will remain focused in that time.

“We need to recognize that this next phase of the season is another opportunity for us to knock off some great teams,” he said. “I’d say we’re playing as well now as we have all year.”

Women end season with quarterfinal loss

The women’s tennis team’s season ended with a 4-0 loss to Nebraska on Friday in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals in Bloomington, Ind.

The Gophers upset Penn State 4-1 in Thursday’s first round. Head coach Chuck Merzbacher said there’s reason for optimism with this group.

“We were relentless on every court … and that was what we were really shooting for with this team,” he said.

Merzbacher has emphasized the youth of his squad all season. He said the weekend served as a great opportunity for younger players to see the ins and outs of a major tournament.

“That’s something you can’t really replace,” he said. “It was good for them to see that kind of environment, and it will help down the road.”

Minnesota won the doubles point against the Nittany Lions. Singles victories from freshman Paula Rincon Otero, sophomore Aria Lambert and senior Alexa Palen clinched the match for the team.

But the Gophers didn’t score a team point against Nebraska. They had struggled similarly in a 6-1 loss to the Huskers on April 19.

“We’ve got something to build on,” Merzbacher said. “I’m really proud of the young kids. They’ve stepped up all year for us.”

Minnesota will miss the NCAA tournament in a couple of weeks. But Merzbacher said this is just the tip of the iceberg for his team.

“I don’t even feel like the season is really over because everyone is focused and excited to keep getting better,” he said. “We’re going to continue to grow and build the program.”